Well, yes, arithmetically, H-A-C-K is a 4-letter word.
But, in contrast to some other 4-letter words in common vernacular, H-A-C-K is a word that represents great things for today’s technology companies, their stakeholders, their customers, and their people.
NB: This is an article by Mary Keagul, head of research and development for Amadeus in the Americas region, based in Boston.
I didn’t always have this view. In fact, before we participated in our first hackathon, I thought a hacker was a bad golfer; and a hack a dry cough, or an unskillfully carved chicken.
So let me tell you about our first time… It was September 2011. Our Amadeus Research & Development group based in the Boston area was a small team back then – less than 30 people.
We heard that Tnooz would be hosting a THack in nearby Cambridge, and we were curious. What was a THack? What would it be like to work throughout the night with colleagues sharing a singular focus on bringing a new concept to life? Should we give it a try?
Well, not only did we say "yes" to entering that Boston-based THack, we won it! What a thrill! Winning was great, but the benefits of hackathons are not just found in the winner’s circle.
For my team at Amadeus, every hackathon in which we’ve participated has yielded many terrific tangible and intangible results:
1. Fresh ideas
Hackathons provide a safe environment to think outside the box. They give the participants a freedom to explore, to learn, and to challenge boundaries. The results can be ideas for new products, extensions to existing products, or expansions of features for additional markets – as well as working prototypes to demo them.
2. Energy and excitement
Adrenaline, competitive juices, and the pure excitement of creating something new are the forces that power the hack team members during the hack. In the days subsequent to the hack, the team’s emotion is transferred to their colleagues, creating positive energy and engendering company pride.
3. Emotional connections
The team that hacks together, stays together. Companies invest a lot in attracting, nurturing, and retaining talent and knowledge. The hackathon experience creates ties that bind people together and increases employee engagement in the company’s success.
4. Personal growth
The nature of a hackathon requires that the hackers spend a lot of time together, under great pressure. They learn about themselves and their teammates - their strengths and weaknesses. They learn how to deal with emotions, fatigue, and egos in ways that benefit the team – not themselves. These are skills that are invaluable in the workplace.
5. Renewal of team spirit
Hackathons provide development teams a place to escape from the humdrum of their daily routines. They provide developers, Ux specialists, quality engineers, project managers, scrum-masters, and product owners a respite from the pressure of committed deliverables. They give them a blank slate, a focused timeframe, and an experimental atmosphere in which to create the next big thing – or not – with no constraints or consequences.
6. Big picture thinking
What good is a really cool, geeky invention if no one will buy it? Working as part of a hackathon team forces the hacker to think about more than her/his normal day-to-day scope. The product manager needs to consider the effort and complexity involved in building the concept. The engineer needs to consider how the concept solves a problem in a manner – and at a price point – that the customer will pay for. The Ux, product, and QA specialists need to think about the value that the invention will bring to the user, the customer, and the company. As an R&D leader, this is exactly the kind of thinking I expect of everyone on every project. Hackathons provide a vehicle for teaching these skills.
Since that first hack, our Amadeus R&D team in Boston has since grown significantly to over 200 people. We have just moved to a new, state of the art, tech-enabled, collaborative office space in the "tech corridor”" on Route 128 in Waltham, a suburb of Boston.
And, we have come full circle in the hackathon world - progressing from novice, to veteran, to host.
On November 7 to 9 2014, Amadeus will host its first hackathon in North America, Amadeus HACK@1050, in conjunction with Tnooz.
The goals are simple:
- Inspire fresh ideas that will shape the future of travel by bringing together college students, technology professionals and hackers to solve four travel-related challenges.
- Provide an experience in which participants can share their spirit of innovation, stoke their competitive fires, and grow professionally and personally.
Register for Amadeus HACK@1050 today:NB:
This is an article by Mary Keagul, head of research and development for Amadeus
in the Americas region, based in Boston.
NB2:Hackathon image via Shutterstock.